With the Champions League knock-out round first leg against Bayern Munich looming large, it’s likely that Arsene Wenger will rotate his side with that game in mind. While the FA Cup is his side’s best chance of a trophy, it would be foolish to neglect it entirely in favour of such a daunting task against the German champions, but Wenger will be keen to prove a point on the biggest stage, and will want his best players to be fresh.
With the above in mind, it’s difficult to guess at the exact line-up for the Blackburn FA Cup tie – he may choose to rotate just a few positions, or go with a complete overhaul. It’s likely that the three attackers playing off of the striker will be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky and Gervinho, and they may well play in front of Francis Coquelin and Abou Diaby.
Arsenal have often struggled when wholesale changes have been made – the fluency hasn’t quite been there at times, and chances have been few and far between. Therefore it’d be a wise idea to play through Rosicky in the centre of the attack; the Czech midfielder in top form is a vibrant influence buzzing about the pitch, with his sharp turns and quick offloading a great help to the tempo of their play, and his clever passes a real outlet in terms of unlocking a stubborn opposition.
If Gervinho does play on the left, it’ll be his first game since leaving for the African Cup of Nations. He had a great start to the season but as Wenger played with his role, he began to lose form and therefore confidence. The whole thing became a vicious cycle, with fans getting on his back after every misplaced pass or dodgy touch, with his confidence reaching an all-time low.
He showed a completely different side of himself for the Ivory Coast in South Africa, hitting something much closer to his top form. The freedom of playing for his country – and fans that appreciate him – clearly lifted a weight off of his shoulders, and the real Gervinho stood up to be counted. The less-pressurised environment of an FA Cup tie against Championship opposition, with respect to Blackburn of course, should suit him as he looks to resurrect his Arsenal career. A good start would be sticking with the basics, as well as fans not jeering everything that goes wrong for him.
Arsenal got a good lesson in not underestimating their opposition on the pitch against Bradford in the Capital One Cup – as if another was needed after the many disappointing results that were partly down to complaceny – and they’d do well to remember it here. They may have beaten Blackburn 7-1 last season at home, but Michael Appleton’s side will be keen to avenge that (those that remain anyway).
In particular, the Gunners will have to be aware of Jordan Rhodes. The ex-Huddersfield striker is working his way up the leagues the hard way, and will be keen to impress any top clubs watching. Not as if his performances could get any better – he has 19 goals in 27 league games for Blackburn, and has been winning games on his own. Mertesacker and Sagna, or perhaps Mertesacker and Miquel, will need to be on their toes.
Arsenal news as featured